bitter foods can help your health

How bitter foods can help your health

Food, Nutrology

If you are trying to eat well, you likely have decreased the amount of sugar in your diet. Do you know that you can boost your health even more by eating more of what is the opposite of sweet foods? That is, bitter foods.

When we eat foods with simple sugars, our blood glucose levels rise quickly, and our pancreas then releases insulin to drive the glucose into our cells. This drops the glucose level, and often with that, hunger returns. This is one reason too much sugar is unhealthy, as it may create hunger cycles throughout the day. These cycles can lead to obesity and diabetes.

Bitter foods have advantages

Eating bitter foods seems to have the opposite effect. Rather than increase and cause spikes in your blood sugar and insulin levels, bitter foods can stabilize your blood sugar and insulin levels. Bitter foods are more likely to satisfy your appetite, and you may eat less. Bitters act as probiotics, so they fortify your intestinal microbiome.

Bitter foods improve digestion

Europeans have long used liquid bitter preparations to improve their digestion, which is effective. When you eat bitters, your mouth produces more saliva and your stomach produces more digestive enzymes and acid which facilitates digestion. Perhaps most importantly, bitters stimulate your liver to make and release bile. Bile is a substance your intestines use to emulsify the fat you eat, which improves absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Bitter foods full of bioactive compounds

One reason plants are so good for our health is that they contain various antioxidant compounds, such as phenols, polyphenols and flavonoids. Many of these compounds are bitter tasting or astringent, and is one reason bitter foods taste sharp, and maybe unpleasant.

The food industry—to make foods more palatable to the public— has worked to “de-bitter” foods through various chemical processes. They know that sweet sells better than bitter. This makes food taste better, but by removing the bitters, they remove much of the health benefit. This is one reason processed food is nutritionally inferior to fresh, natural food.

Bitter foods and drinks to consider

Arugula lettuce

Endive lettuce

Radicchio lettuce


Mustard greens

Dandelion greens

Beet greens

Brussels sprouts




Apple cider vinegar



Green, black, or white tea

Red wine

Dark chocolate

How to tolerate bitters

A study just released delivered good news about these foods. The conclusion was that when we start to eat more bitter foods, our saliva changes in a way that makes bitter foods taste better, and less bitter. This helps build our tolerance for these healthy foods that at first may not seem very appealing.

Try to add some bitter foods and/or liquids to each meal to boost your digestion and your vitamin and antioxidant intake, help stabilize your blood sugar levels, and moderate your appetite. You can even add bitters to your breakfast—for example, tea or water with lime.

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See also in ProcuraMed:

How to improve your internal microbiome

How ex-smokers can reduce their risk of emphysema

Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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